Your Children Are Not Programmable Robots!

It’s not often I come upon an article that just makes me want to tear out my hair. Actually, that’s not true. I come upon articles that make me want to tear out my hair all the time. But for some reason, this one felt different. In this article, the author, a Christian pastor, wrote about all the dreams he has for his toddler son, and about how he realized that, because the Bible says that if you are a Christian the world will hate you, he has to raise his son not to be loved or admired, but to be hated. And that is the title of the article: “Raising Kids the World Will Hate.”

Reading [these Bible verses], I realized that if God answers my prayer for my son to be a follower of Christ, people will hate him. People will absolutely, unquestionably be repulsed by my son.

If God graciously saves my Oscar, people will call him a bigot and a homophobe. Some will ridicule him as a male chauvinist as they scorn his “sexist” beliefs. He’ll be despised as closed-minded for saying that Jesus Christ is not only God but the only God. He will probably meet a girl who insults his manhood or considers him old fashioned for waiting until marriage to have sex. His peers will think him a prude. Bullies will call him a coward. His integrity will draw insults like “goody two shoes” (I don’t even know what that means).

Teachers will think that that my son ignores scientific facts about our origins, prompting his classmates to mark him an idiot. People will tell him he has been led astray by his parents down an ancient path of misguided morality masked as a relationship with God. Financial advisers will think he’s irresponsibly generous. When he takes a stand, there will be those who will not tolerate his intolerance. He will be judged as judgmental. He will have enemies, and I’ll be asking him to love them, and even for that he’ll look foolish.

Vyckie Garrison posted this article on her facebook wall, and some of the comments she got were really insightful. I’m going to reprint some of them here.

Well he seems to be operating under the impression that after child birth, what you wind up with is a programmable robot. He is about to be sorely disappointed.

This I think is why this article affected me so. The Christian homeschooling subculture in which I was raised treats children as programmable robots. You do XYZ, input ABC there, and there you go! A perfect ideological clone in every minutia! Except that it doesn’t work like that!

In his mind, his son is a clone of himself.

Yes, exactly! But the thing is, children aren’t clones. Children are individuals with their own personalities and minds, their own talents and desires. Parents who view their kids as clones of themselves are bound to be disappointed—and to hurt their children in the process. The piece of advice that helped me out of this whole mindset, as a young mother, was this: “Libby, you have to remember, children are wild cards.”

He totally didn’t understand what my Grandad told me my Dad didn’t understand—”children don’t come into this world to you, they come into it through you.” He’s in for a rude awakening if he thinks his kid will agree with him even on the basic commonalities he assumed, like favorite sports teams. They’re their own people from a very young age and I feel sorry for that little boy who’s Dad doesn’t have a clue about what that means.

Once again, yes! Only in preschool, Sally is very much her own little person, and Bobby is starting to be his own person as well. And it is indeed this little boy that I feel sorry for here. If he grows up to disagree with his father even in small ways—and the odds are he will—he will feel the keen sting of his father’s unmet expectations.

The persecuted Christian meme is strong with this one.

I really have to say, I’ve never read the Christian persecution complex written from quite this angle. It’s like, persecution by proxy.

A nice piece of manipulative writing; notice he shifted the focus to a child and away from his adult self; used the emotions of pity and the emotional desire to protect a child to justify his intolerance for people who do not think the way he does.

And, well, that is the whole point of the persecution by proxy bit. The author’s focus on how people will hate his little bitty boy allows him to get him an emotional appeal that simply saying “People don’t like me because I tell gays and lesbians that they are going to be tortured for eternity for hell unless they repent” or “I don’t think schools should be trying to stop people from bullying gay kids” would fail to create.

The Slacktivist has been writing a lot about the Christian persecution complex lately. His main point is that conservative Christians engage in the fantasy that they are a beleaguered and persecuted minority in order to enjoy the the righteous remnant buzz they feel as a result, and to distract themselves from, well, this:

One point seems to be escaping this guy. If the values you’re teaching your child will cause others to hate him and be repulsed by him, the rest of the world isn’t the problem. The problem is the fact that you’re instilling repulsive values in your child.

In the end, I see two points to be made here.

First, children are not programmable robots. It’s only natural for people to have hopes and dreams for their children, but if you make those dreams too specific, you are bound to be disappointed—and you may well hurt your child in the process. I hope that my children will be compassionate individuals, that they will learn to stand confident on their own two feet, and that they will live fulfilling lives. And that’s it.

I understand that someone who is Christian is naturally going to want their child to also be Christian, but isn’t “I hope he will grow up to love and follow after Jesus” enough, without all of the minutia? But it’s not, of course, because in this author’s legalistic brand of Christianity, being a Christian doesn’t mean loving Jesus, it means voting Republican.

Second, this article simply highlights the depth of the Christian persecution complex. This author clearly sees himself—and his son—as persecuted and hated, and he wants you, the reader, to feel empathy for him. But what about the gay couple who are prevented from adopting a child because of the votes of individuals like him? What about the teens who become pregnant because people like him pushed for abstinence only sex education because of their religious opposition to premarital sex? What about the women who can’t access the healthcare they need because his state defunded Planned Parenthood?

The author of this article can’t see beyond his Christian persecution fantasy to the real world. He speaks of his son facing bullies and yet almost certainly opposes the efforts some schools have started talking to protect LGBTQ youth from bullying. The author can’t see that if his son does end up sharing his beliefs, people will dislike him because the views he holds will be harmful to those around him.

With that seriousness out of the way, I add this last comment only because it made me laugh:

Another hell raising, hard partying preacher’s kid. Those guys were a blast to hang out with in high school.

What would you add?

Red Town, Blue Town
A Letter from Jesus and Living in Fear
Why We Should Teach Children to Say "No"
On Orgies, Bisexuality, James Dobson, and Evangelicals
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Christine

    I think I’ve been reading too many disturbing viewpoints here. My reaction to this was more along the lines of “oh, hey, he says there’s an ‘if” involved. That’s an improvement.”

  • Marian

    “Financial advisers will think he’s irresponsibly generous.”

    Maybe it’s my own cynicism, but my experience has been that most Christians who follow all of the points he laid out in his article don’t tend to be the most generous Christians. The generous Christians tend to be the progressive ones. Evangelicals are usually too concerned with making sure the people they are being generous to “deserve” the help they’re getting… which isn’t really generous. So there, that’s one less thing he has to worry about.

    • Ibis3

      I think he means that financial advisers will think he’s irresponsible to give away a tenth of his income to his local church con-artist.

    • Lindsay

      Yeah, or that preacher who refused to tip a waitress on the grounds that “God only gets ten percent,” so who was she to expect an 18% gratuity?

      Real prince, that one.

      • M

        Princess, technically. Who that particular preacher turned out to be was a surprise to a lot of people, myself included, because she wasn’t anything like the old white guy most of us expected. She was a Black woman, looked to be in her 40s to me.

  • Elise

    The line: “Financial advisers will think he’s irresponsibly generous” slays me because…well…Christians are awful to people who don’t fulfill the ideal mould. They refuse help for the poor. They hate the idea of universal healthcare when 30,000 people die from preventable illnesses every year in the US due to non-insurance.

    Why does he think that pointing to a horse and telling his kid that the animal is a dog will work at all?

  • Lisa

    The thing is – persecution is not what he says it is.
    If I were to wear a red shirt and people would make fun of me for that, I would still not be persecuted. If I say something, and people tell me that they think I’m wrong, that’s not persecution! If I say I don’t like, for example, people from Germany because they smell like sausage (as a half-German, I can tell you that this is not true most of the time!), and others call me judgemental, that’s not persecution either.

    The problem is that Christians tend to label all forms of discussion, debate or disagreement as “persecution” when it really isn’t. If I say the Bible is wrong about creation, I’m not merely disagreeing with them, I’m persecuting them.

    Sometimes this makes me really angry because the christian version of persecution merely has an effect on christians. It’s not like their kids will actually go to school where they will be bullied by other kids now, is it? Really, the form in which these christians think they’re being persecuted has no impact on their life. If they’re being called homophobic, they’re still free to go their merry way and have a nice dinner. What is real impact on someone’s life is a woman who is forced to have a child, or a gay couple who can’t rent apartments, or a person who is discriminated because of the way they speak, or whatever else there is.

    They really need to get a grip on reality and figure out just how insulting this is to people who are ACTUALLY being persecuted.

    • The_L

      THANK YOU! I’m also totally sick of this idea that persecution = holiness.

      The point of that particular Beatitude was “If you’re doing the right thing like I told you, and people treat you like garbage for doing the right thing, rest assured that I’m still on your side, not the haters’.”

      It was not, “You don’t really love me unless you’re persecuted.”

      It was not, “Everyone who is persecuted, is persecuted because they are holy.”

      And it certainly was not, “Being told you’re being mean is the same thing as being persecuted.”

      Because sometimes we shame and mock people for being nasty, spiteful, selfish jerks. Sometimes society actually applauds the people who do the right thing. Sometimes the good guys win.

      And by equating persecution with holiness, you are ensuring that you, yourself, are not one of the good guys. After all, once somebody says, “But that’s a nasty way to treat people!” you can avoid examining your words and actions to see if you are treating people badly, and simply rest assured that you must be right because someone else said you were wrong.

      As for Mr. Griffin, I wonder what he’d say if he knew that I was raised in the exact same way he describes, and that the vehemence with which this idea was pushed on me caused me to go in the exact opposite direction.

      • Karen

        This a million times. The persecution Jesus spoke of was for doing the merciful thing and then suffering for that action. The action that caused the bad reaction was the focus. Jesus never said “be a complete jerk so that everyone dislikes you, thereby proving how good you are.”

    • Heather S.

      Exactly! There is some major confusion among the evangelical and fundamentalist christian groups about what persecution actually is. When I was a part of that culture, I took pride in the “persecution” I experienced in the form of people making fun of me or my beliefs. I think it stems from the insecurity people in this group feel about their own salvation. Libby has written before about feeling unsure of whether or not she was truly “saved”. I remember praying the sinners prayer multiple times myself. When the ultimate consequence of the question “am I truly saved?” is either eternal bliss or eternal damnation you have to look for evidence that you are saved anywhere you can find it. So, if the Bible tells you that good Christians will be hated and persecuted by the world, you start looking for evidence of that hatred and persecution in your own life wherever you can find it – even if you have to make it up – in order to prove to yourself that you’re not going to wind up in hell when you die. It’s really sad to know that some people never find their way out of this kind of fear-based faith. I can’t imagine living the rest of my life like that.

      • wanderer

        yes. I have often thought that the love of persecution-mindedness comes from a deep insecurity. In my thinking, it might not have been insecurity about whether someone is saved as much as an insecurity from knowing *deep down* that all of this doesn’t make sense. Fear that someone is going to call you on your shit.

  • Jayn

    A couple thoughts.

    One is, what kind of parent actually raises their child with the hopes that they will be hated? (Answer, of course, resting above) This is the opposite of what most parents want. They worry that their child will get made fun of for being smart, or dumb, or wearing glasses, or being weird, and try to either side-step the mockery or equip their child to deal with it. Raising a child who will be hated is not raising someone who will be able to function well in society, both because of the values you’re trying to instill and the torment the child will endure as a result.

    Secondly…YES WE’LL CALL HIM A BIGOT AND A HOMOPHOBE IF YOU RAISE HIM TO BE A BIGOT AND A HOMOPHOBE. That’s just calling a spade a spade there. I’m sure you’d consider yourself to be a godly man, not a bigoted one, but the difference isn’t particularly relevant. If you teach him that gays are disordered and shouldn’t be allowed to marry, then you’re teaching him to hate gays and we will call him on it. If you teach him that women are inferior to men and should take care of the home and children while he works, then you’re teaching him to be sexist and we will call him on it. You may think that these opinions are the right ones, so go ahead and teach them if you wish, but what you’re describing is not persecution so much as accurate labeling, and the only way to avoid him being called bigoted or homophobic or sexist is to NOT TEACH HIM TO BE BIGOTED OR HOMOPHOBIC OR SEXIST.

  • dj pomegranate

    Here are things that Jesus never said:

    Blessed are those that are proud of their correct stance in the culture wars, for they shall inherit the earth.
    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness indignation: for they will be filled.
    Blessed are the puritanical, for they will see God.
    Blessed are those who believe in traditional gender roles: for they will be called children of God.
    Blessed are those who are persecuted because of their Republican voting record, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    What really gets me about those who suffer from Christian-persecution complex is how obvious it is to *everyone else* that what they are standing up for is not actually righteousness. It’s not peacemaking, it’s not love, it’s not mercy, it’s not purity. What this guy (and those like him!) is defending is not Jesus, it’s doublespeak.

    • Lisa

      Add “Blessed are those who do the opposite of supposed non-christians simply in order to be persecuted, while never once examining in detail what you’re ACTUALLY saying and/or doing” to the list :D

      • The_L

        This, so much. The GOP used to be a genuinely conservative political party. It has degenerated into “The Party Of Never Agreeing With Anything Democrats Have To Say, Ever.” Which is maddening, because there are measures that they’re all for–until a Democrat says, “Yeah, that sounds like a great idea!” See also Romneycare–I mean, Obamacare.

        It’s kind of sad, because this folly on the part of the GOP elite means that American conservatives don’t really have any good options. (Not that the Democrats are that great for hardcore liberals, either, but there’s a difference between “more moderate than I am” and “shooting themselves in the foot.”)

    • Ahab

      :: applauds ::

      I love it.

  • Anne

    The guy is raising his son to be a supremacist. He’s raising his son to view himself (assuming that the child is hetero) as superior to gays. He’s raising his son to feel absolutely superior to women. Both of those things are united by the contempt they show for anything and any one who does not fit their version of masculinity.

    The bits about the “only God” are just another example of how he plans to train his son to think he’s superior to those around him.

    So yes, when you start insisting that you’re fundamentally superior to people by an accident of birth and a magic wand, people will think you’re an ass.

    And if you plan to keep your precious snowflake from learning from and about the rest of humanity to preserve this sense of superiority, you’ll be proving them right.

    • machintelligence

      With any luck the kid will turn out to be a reasonable person and not an asshole like his dad. One never knows.

    • Kodie

      You know, they accuse atheists of wanting to be “god” a lot. Like, their sense of hierarchy is that god is the best and humans are next best, but “humble” enough to need a leader of themselves (god). You have put a point on that note in what you say. Some humans put god first and themselves next best, and the rest of humans are lesser than themselves. Not very humble. Of course, conceited stuck-up people are popularly hated.

  • Hilary

    Harvard Law of Biology:

    Under identically controlled conditions of heat, light, gravity, nutrients, and very other variable, the organism will do as it damned well pleases.

    This works for kids as well as E. coli

    And yes, my deepest pity for that child

  • Malitia

    I always wonder what kind of epic No True Scotsman is needed to keep up the Christian persecution complex in one of the most Christian nations of the word. I mean with being the majority in the US they are the world. :/

  • Kodie

    He will probably meet a girl who insults his manhood or considers him old fashioned for waiting until marriage to have sex. His peers will think him a prude. Bullies will call him a coward. His integrity will draw insults like “goody two shoes” (I don’t even know what that means).

    When I read this, I thought well that’s wrong too. It is true that peer pressure exists. This portion does not cover how he’s going to raise his son to turn on others for the way they are and standing up for what they believe in, but I think about how “purity” is supposed to align with their beliefs, and they’re not actually connected. People might tease him (assuming he learns precisely what he’s intended to learn) because his religious “morality” has got him too uptight, but there is no “better” reason these particular teasers have in ditching that set of rules. At least according to this guy who wrote the essay, society does have a different set of sexual morals, but the way he portrays it (which is not exactly inaccurate) doesn’t have reason behind it either. People should have sex when they are comfortable with it and not be pressured to go along with the group to prove they’re not a prude or avoid being laughed at.

    Will he be hated or phony-persecuted for “having integrity”? We should all care about that vague word choice. I despise religionists appropriating concepts like ‘integrity’ to mean their bound set of choices, but however, integrity is a thing which we should not let others tear down. Not because they label us a prude and not because they label us a slut. If, for example, the kid really doesn’t want to have sex when his friends tease him to do like they do, he should not have sex. If he wants to have sex, he should not be poisoned against healthy consensual sex because of guilt.

    This is hard to talk about because it’s entangled in purity culture where not wanting to has a lot more to do with being stung with guilt, so the situation is not even his own to have integrity for. Either he is persecuted by his own guilt, inherited by his father, or he is persecuted by his peers. Neither is correct, but this is unfortunate for someone who is raised not to know what their own integrity is, what they really want to do, or how to react and make decisions free of nonsense emotional triggering baggage.

  • Eamon Knight

    Conservative Christians are wannabe subs in a fantasy BDSM relationship with “The World” (often specified as being one or more of: the liberal media/LGBTs/atheism/secular humanism/evolution/….). And it drives them a bit batty that their intended dom a) doesn’t actually swing that way, b) isn’t really interested in them, except when said Christians are making distracting noises which can’t be ignored, and indeed c) doesn’t really exist as they imagine it.

  • perfectnumber628

    Or maybe his son will be inspired by Jesus’ commands to love each other, so he’ll advocate for gay rights, and conservative Christians will hate him and say he’s “rejecting the bible.” Maybe he’ll speak out against rape culture and people will hate him for that.

    Why does this guy think the only way to be “hated” is by being a conservative Republican? It sounds like he hates a lot of other people too- maybe his son will be one of them.

    • Kodie

      Same reason these people think we all hate god. If god is right then these people also think they’re right. They don’t care if someone is hated because they’re “wrong”, since let’s assume they hate satan.

      For example, it’s ok to hate someone if they cut their sandwiches into rectangles instead of triangles because rectangles are wrong. It’s when the rectangle sandwich cutters hate the triangle sandwich cutters, that the rectangle sandwich cutters are still also wrong. Triangle sandwich cutting is the best and anyone who disagrees and hates us are wrong – we are following god’s way and that is the only right way, no matter what anyone says. See also: Kissing Hank’s Ass.

  • Ahab

    I’ve noticed this children-as-programmable-robots theme in Christian homeschool conferences and Quiverfull writings. Fundamentalists expect to win the culture wars by outbreeding their perceived opponents. They fail to realize that there is no guarantee that their offspring will adopt their version of Christianity, or ANY type of Christianity at all.

    Speaking of Christian persecution complexes, did you see the latest report from Political Research Associates?

    • Nea

      Thing is, they can do pretty well on the outbreeding and even the indoctrination – look at the huge families of the Duggers and the Phelpses.

      Where the plan collapses badly is the idea that these carefully sheltered, undereducated, and indoctrinated children can then go out into a world they fear and misunderstand and accomplish much of anything.

  • smrnda

    Here’s the problem with Jesus – whatever he says Christians believe 100% without thinking at all, and I think Jesus is wrong or overly simplistic a lot of the time. I mean, sometimes if you take a strong stance for the right thing you can find yourself unwelcome, but ‘the world’ is hardly unanimous in its opinions, so no matter what you believe in, you’ll find a multitude of people who disagree and many who agree. And sometimes a position is unpopular because it’s wrong. You can be persecuted for telling people uncomfortable truths, but you can also be told to shut up for spreading ignorance.

    It sets up this false idea that if you meet opposition, it proves you’re right, whereas sometimes you meet opposition simply because your ideas are bad and you deserve criticism.

    • BringTheNoise

      Here’s the problem with Jesus – whatever he says Christians believe 100% without thinking at all

      Well, there’s certainly no thinking involved, but I don’t think the problem is in taking Jesus too literally. To use one example, the old “pluck out your own eyeball” line about lust – there’s no way you can go from that to “All women must be 100% covered all the time” by just taking the Scripture and directly applying it. (Otherwise there would be a booming market in Fundie eyepatches).

      The problem, as I see it, is that they don’t really care what Jesus (or anyone else in the Bible) said, they just want to use it as a cudgel to use against those people they don’t like. Thus all the quote-mining (or “proof texting” if you will).

  • Lana

    He’s being immature to think they are hated. But I’m so confused (even though I grew up hearing this): why would he want his son to be hated? Its an inconsistency on Christianity’s part. I want to win the world to Christ, but oh, I do it by being known for my hate.

  • Kate Monster

    I LOVE that he waits until the end to play the “irresponsibly generous” card! He lists out all the obviously horrible stuff–bigotry, hatred, dismissal of science, etc– then at the end, throws in this one thing which most people agree is a great thing, generosity (NB: also the only Jesus-like virtue he lists) and emphasizes that the kid will be SO FREAKIN’ GENEROUS that people just won’t be able to comprehend it. There’s an implied, “PLUS! He’ll take care of the less fortunate, because he will be so super generous, and those eeevil, liberal, non-generous people will mock him for it. See how eeevil they are? They hate generosity!! They’re the real bigots!!”

  • Christian Vagabond

    I really hope you’re right about this. it was heartbreaking to see how effective my last church was at keeping kids on the fundamentalist straight and narrow. I’m Facebook friends with a lot of the kids I used to teach for Sunday School, and the stuff they spout as teens and college kids is the same stuff their parents spout. Back when I was teaching a lot of them,

    I had high hopes to some of them. I used to sneak in real science, theology, and history into my lessons with the hope that somehow some of it might seep through. I”d see how excited they’d get from the stuff I taught them, and I thought it might open their eyes all the way. But most of the kids wound up going to Liberty and Bob Jones (voluntarily!), and the ones who didn’t go to college became missionaries. I taught Sunday School for ten years, and I don’t think any of the kids I taught have left fundamentalism. There was one boy who was a malcontent in his father’s eyes, and I thought he might leave the faith completely. He didn’t, but instead of voting diehard Republican like his parents and siblings do, the guy wound up becoming a libertarian who votes Republican, anyway.

    • Mogg

      Don’t lose all hope just yet – it often takes several years of exposure to the outside world to grow the doubts enough and gain the adult confidence to stand up to the parents/elders/preachers. The only reason the meme is that college kids reject their faith is because it’s at a secular college that they are first exposed to different ideas, and if they go to fundy colleges that exposure is later. If they’re going to Liberty and Bob Jones, they don’t really get daily exposure to the real world and different ideas until they start working. You may see some of them leave at around the age of thirty, especially if they are thinking types, and those who don’t marry young and find themselves trapped.

  • Carys Birch

    I detect a hint of my least favorite evangelical canard in here…”an ancient path of misguided morality masked as a relationship with God.”

    Because it’s not a moral code with rules and stuff. It’s not even a religion! It’s a living, breathing, organic relationship!

    (in which one party is believed to be entirely incapable of change and so the whole living breathing bit? Scratch that. It’s an eternally unchanging, unalterable, set in stone sort of relationship that’s completely indistinguishable from the cold dead morality we so despise.)

  • Travis

    From the passage quoted, this pastor said that he prayed his son would accept his faith, not that he was destined to or that he would force him to. He simply realized that there is a price to pay to truly follow Christ – that this invites some amount of scorn and ridicule. (The truth of that can be seen even in some of the comments on this post.) Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to suffer these small things in order to be true to our God, Who not only lovingly created us and gave us life, but suffered horribly that we could be free from death. However, it is true that this pastor’s son must choose for himself whether he will choose the narrow path that leads to life or the broad path that leads to destruction. I pray YOU will choose life : )

    • OurSally

      A true follower of Christ just sticks to the love thy neighbour bit. The greatest of these is love. You know, the stuff in the gospels. And if you love your neighbours they will love you. Easy.

      All that hate and bigotry is not Christian.

    • Shadow Spring

      The only people who hated Jesus were the religious leaders. It’s when the religious leaders love that you KNOW you are not pleasing to God. If the general public loves you, like they loved Jesus, then you know you are on the right track. The reason the father here is hated and called a bigot isn’t because he follows Jesus, it’s because he does NOT follow Jesus. He’s just a self-righteous narcissist who thinks everyone should be like him because he’s so awesome. And yet, no one can stand him. Nah, you can’t put that on Jesus.

  • Lauren Borrero

    “But it’s not, of course, because in this author’s legalistic brand of Christianity, being a Christian doesn’t mean loving Jesus, it means voting Republican.”

    I have to disagree with that part. I am a Republican and I don’t believe in making children into little robots. However I will agree with the fact that yes the father is going to get a big reality check when his son thinks differently than him and hell forbid his son becomes friends with gay people. All I can see is this causing a lot of resentment between father and son rather than a father and son bond.